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130                                                                                B- POLEVOI
obliged to do this, for sometimes he received as many
as ten letters at a time. He received letters from his divi-
sion, from the rear, from his fellow-officers, from
privates, from fellow-officers' wives, writing for old
time's sake, or requesting him to "pull up" husbands
who had got out of hand, from the widows of fellow-
officers who had been killed in action, asking for advice
or assistance in arranging their affairs, and even from
a Young Pioneer in Kazakhstan, the daughter of a reg-
imental commander who had been killed in action, a girl
whose name he could never remember. He read all these
letters with the greatest interest and scrupulously
answered them all; and he also wrote to the competent
authority requesting assistance for the wife of Com-
mander So-and-so, to the husband who had "got out of
hand", giving him a good wigging, to a house manager,
threatening to come himself and "screw his head off" if
he did not put a stove into the apartment occupied by the
family of Commander So-and-so who was at the front,
and to the girl in Kazakhstan with the difficult name
he could not remember, chiding her for getting bad marks
for grammar in the second quarter.
Stepan Ivanovich too conducted a lively correspon-
dence with the front and the rear. He received letters
from his sons, who were also successful snipers, and
letters from his daughter, a team-leader in her collective
farm, containing innumerable greetings from all relatives
and acquaintances and informing him that although the
collective farm had sent more people on new construction
jobs, such and such plans had been overfulfilled by so
many per cent. These letters Stepan Ivanovich gladly
read aloud the moment he received them, and the whole
ward, all the ward maids, nurses and even the house
surgeon, a dry, jaundiced fellow, were kept regulary in-
formed about his family affairs.
Even unsociable Kukushkin, who seemed to be at
loggerheads with the whole world, received letters from
his mother, who lived somewhere in Barnaul. He would
saatdh the letter out of the nurse's hand, wait until
everybody in the ward was asleep and then read it, whis-
pering the words to himself. During those moments his
jaarsb features softened and his face assumed a mild and